Illinois at Risk from Coal Ash Pollution

Lincon Ash Quarry, Joliet

Lincoln Ash Quarry, Joliet

New Report Released Today

Listen to audio of the press conference.

In a new report released today titled “Illinois at Risk: Lax Safeguards and No Enforcement Endanger the Water, Air & Lives of Residents Near State’s Numerous Coal Ash Dumps” Prairie Rivers Network and the Environmental Integrity Project document new groundwater data and profiles of 10 contamination sites across the state showing the Illinois EPA’s failure to protect residents from coal ash pollution.

At the same time, Illinois Representatives have voted to take away U.S. EPA’s ability to implement federally enforceable safeguards which would prevent coal ash contamination cases from happening in the future, and guarantee that existing contamination sites are closed in a safe manner.

From the Executive Summary:

Coal combustion waste (CCW) or “coal ash” is a toxic byproduct of electricity generation that is contaminating water supplies and harming communities across Illinois due to the lax regulation by the state in the absence of minimum federal standards.

Illinois has the second highest number of contaminated coal ash dump sites in the United States. Data from groundwater sampling conducted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (hereafter called “IEPA”) at coal ash disposal sites in 2010 is now available, and the results are grim. IEPA found exceedances of health standards for contaminants commonly found in coal ash  in groundwater at all 22 sites evaluated in the state. Yet, in spite of years of documentation demonstrating that coal ash is polluting groundwater in communities across the state, Illinois regulators have done little to prevent or correct these ongoing problems.

As the 10 case studies compiled in this report from the Illinois communities of Joliet, Venice, Hutsonville, Coffeen, Industry, Murdock, Vermilion, Coulterville, and Farmersville demonstrate, state oversight of coal ash disposal has failed Illinois residents living near coal ash dumps.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (hereafter called “EPA”) is nearing completion on a national rulemaking that would set minimum common-sense safeguards for states to meet at coal ash dump sites.   In Illinois, hopes are high that federal safeguards will finally force IEPA to take stronger action to clean up contaminated coal ash sites and prevent more contamination from occurring at new ash disposal sites. Yet under the cover of the federal debt debate, many Illinois’ Members of Congress have just voted to take away EPA’s authority to stop this harm.

As part of a broader move to roll back clean water protections, Representatives from Illinois’ delegation including Representatives Peter Roskam (R. 6th), Joe Walsh (R. 8th), Robert Dold (R. 10th), Adam Kinzinger (R. 11th), Jerry Costello (D. 12th), Judy Biggert (R. 13th), Randy Hultgren (R. 14th), Donald Manzullo (R. 16th), Robert Schilling (R. 17th), Aaron Schock (R. 18th), and John Shimkus (R. 19th) have voted to strip EPA’s ability to finalize their ongoing rulemaking which would provide Illinois residents relief from toxic coal ash pollution.

The following examination of coal ash dump sites and monitoring from IEPA reveals contamination of groundwater at many coal ash dump sites in Illinois, demonstrating why our federal legislators should step back and let EPA do its job to protect the drinking water and air of Americans living around coal ash sites in accordance with the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, (RCRA). 

Read Full Report: Illinois at Risk